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Potential for developing more pilgrimage trails on conference agenda

PUBLISHED: 11:35 10 September 2019 | UPDATED: 11:57 10 September 2019

Conference exploring sustainable travel. Tom FitzPatrick, Norfolk county councillor for the Fakenham division, which includes Walsingham. Pictures: David Bale

Conference exploring sustainable travel. Tom FitzPatrick, Norfolk county councillor for the Fakenham division, which includes Walsingham. Pictures: David Bale

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In medieval times Walsingham was one of the most visited pilgrimage sites in Europe.

A Diocese of East Anglia pilgrimage to Walsingham earlier this year. Picture: Keith Morris/www.rcdea.org.ukA Diocese of East Anglia pilgrimage to Walsingham earlier this year. Picture: Keith Morris/www.rcdea.org.uk

And partners from five countries have come together in Norfolk this week to discuss how pilgrimages can thrive in the 21st century.

Work on the EU €1.2m Green Pilgrimage project started 18 months ago and aims to make the most of increasingly popular routes and destinations.

Norfolk County Council is hosting partners from Norway, Sweden, Italy, Romania and Kent as part of a week-long study visit for the Interreg project, promoting pilgrimage using walking and cycling as a form of sustainable tourism.

The conference started on Tuesday, September 10 at Norwich Cathedral Hostry with Tom FitzPatrick, Norfolk county councillor for the Fakenham division, which includes Walsingham, welcoming guests.

Conference exploring sustainable travel. The Very Rev Jane Hedges, Dean of Norwich. Pictures: David BaleConference exploring sustainable travel. The Very Rev Jane Hedges, Dean of Norwich. Pictures: David Bale

Mr FitzPatrick, who lives in Walsingham, has walked from Paris to Chartres on pilgrimage seven times.

He said: "In Norfolk we have 1,200 miles of trails for cycling and walking and more medieval churches than any other county.

"Walsingham receives 300,000 visitors annually to the shrines, abbey and heritage sites.

"The aim is to reduce the impact of people coming on pilgrimage to Walsingham and also to encourage them to come.

A map showing the route of the Walsingham Way. Picture: Walking4NorfolkA map showing the route of the Walsingham Way. Picture: Walking4Norfolk

"Tourism is worth £3.2bn a year in Norfolk. We want to encourage people to walk the last bit in Walsingham. Despite the village having just 600 people, there are pubs, restaurants and shops, which there would not be without the visitors."

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The Very Rev Jane Hedges, Dean of Norwich, said: "We are meeting in the Hostry, which was built on the footprints of the original medieval hostry, which was here for 500 years.

"Going on pilgrimage is becoming very popular. I am taking parties next year to The Holy Land and to Oberammergau.

A service after a pilgrimage to the Anglican Shrine of our Lady of Walsingham. Photo: Graham HowardA service after a pilgrimage to the Anglican Shrine of our Lady of Walsingham. Photo: Graham Howard

"It's important to encourage pilgrimages at local level. As Norfolk people we need to be passionate about the place where we live, and, also, in touch with the environment for our wellbeing."

Over the two-year project, Norfolk is focusing on gathering evidence of how Walsingham and the surrounding area is affected by being a centre for pilgrimage. For more information, visit www.interregeurope.eu/greenpilgrimage

Boost for project to promote centuries-old pilgrimage route between Norwich Cathedral and Walsingham

Plans to mark the medieval pilgrimage route from Norwich Cathedral to Walsingham have received a £31,000 funding boost.

Conference exploring sustainable travel at Norwich Cathedral Hostry. Pictures: David BaleConference exploring sustainable travel at Norwich Cathedral Hostry. Pictures: David Bale

The Walsingham Way Project, which aims to promote the historic 37-mile journey, was awarded the money by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

The project is led by Norwich Cathedral which is hosting a Green Pilgrimage Conference organised by Norfolk County Council and involving partners from a number of European countries.

The Revd Dr Peter Doll, Canon Librarian and Vice Dean at Norwich Cathedral, said: "This route will be a physical reminder of the many routes which in the Middle Ages brought pilgrims from around Britain and from overseas to the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, the most popular and revered of all England's medieval shrines.

"The last 30 years have seen an explosion in the number of people going on pilgrimage by foot and bicycle to historic shrines across Europe, particularly Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

Conference exploring sustainable travel. The Medieval Pilgrim Pound. Pictures: David BaleConference exploring sustainable travel. The Medieval Pilgrim Pound. Pictures: David Bale

"The Walsingham Way, which follows the Wensum valley for much of its route, is the first of a projected network of pathways which will give locals and visitors an opportunity to immerse themselves in the gentle beauty of the countryside and to experience the spirituality and peace of the contemporary Anglican and Roman Catholic Shrines of Our Lady of Walsingham."

The exact route it will take is being finalised and it should be open to the public in early 2020.

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